13 October 2016
Resident shares his experience of being evacuated in WW2.
David Barter, 84, who lives at Anisha Grange, our award-winning care home in Billericay, Essex has shared his experience of being evacuated during WW2.
On September 1st 1939, there was a mass evacuation of children from London and its suburbs, to places in the countryside where it was thought they would be safer if there were air raids. Most parents wanted to ensure the safety of their children, but some would not allow their children to go.
My sister Kathleen, then aged 6, and I walked to Downhills School at Tottenham, each with a small suitcase and a gas mask box slung over our shoulders with a label tied to it showing our name and address, I was 7 ¾ . We had been told to keep together. All the children from our school then walked in an orderly line with teachers to Wood Green station. There we boarded a train which took us near to Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire; although at the time we had no idea where we were going. It would have taken about an hour, and on arrival all of the children were put onto coaches to Burford Road School, where we assembled in the hall. There we were each given a bag of goodies, which included a bar of Cadburys milk chocolate. We were then split into groups to be taken to houses where we were going to stay.
When we reached our destination, my sister and I were introduced to Mrs Young who was our foster mother while we were to be evacuees. She looked a kindly lady with grey hair, and we later learnt she was aged 60 and her name was Eliza. Her husband was about the same age and was called Alf. They lived in a two bedroomed terraced house with a lounge, dining room and kitchen downstairs. There was no electricity or telephone. Gas lamps were fixed to the walls to provide lighting. It was all very clean and nicely decorated. Our bedroom had a double bed with brass fittings and there were pictures of birds on the walls.
After we had been given a very nice lunch, I had to write a letter to our parents to let them know we had arrived safely and to give them our address. This was then taken to be posted and we were allowed to join some other evacuee children who were playing in the street. They were all from our school in London so we were among friends.
Two days later on the 3rd September 1939, we were told there was going to be an important announcement on the radio and we must listen to it. So we all gathered around the radio in the living room at the appropriate time, it was the Prime Minister, Sir Neville Chamberlin. He was broadcasting to say the war with Germany had been declared. All the adults were very serious and then we heard the sirens wailing outside and everybody went into the street. The siren was meant to warn of air raids, but this time it was only a practice alarm. I remember not being scared at the time, if there was an air raid, we were to be put in the cupboard under the stairs on cushions.
In July 1941, I was able to return home to my family with my sister as the threat of bombing had decreased and there we spent the remainder of the war. We had enjoyed staying with Rolf and Eliza. It was quite nice living in the country and our foster parents were very kind and thoughtful. They kept chickens and my sister collected the fresh eggs. They also used to take us to Barclays Park where I used to fish for sticklebacks and red throats in the stream. We used to help on the allotment and I used to shop for weekly groceries using the family ration books.
Naturally I had missed my parents when I was an evacuee, but I didn’t pine for them as they were able to visit monthly and on special occasions such as birthdays. They could also bring us anything we needed such as clothes and toiletries. After the war ended, we saw Rolf and Eliza a few times and we wrote to them. They missed us and we missed them and our time in the country. When I look back now at the time I was evacuated, it wasn’t an unenjoyable experience at all.
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